A CAKE TO SAY I LOVE YOU FROM KIM JOY’S COOKBOOK


Of the many contestants of The Great British Bake Off, I cannot think of anyone sweeter and more lovely than Kim Joy. Her talent as a baker goes way beyond mixing sugar with butter, she turns everything she touches into little works of art. Her love for animals and nature is often present in cakes, cookies, all things pastry. I have mixed feelings about Instagram, to me it often passes a pseudo-glamour aura. But when you stumble on Kim Joy’s instagram feed, you realize it is just one more venue in which she shows how special and caring a person she is. And of course, you can marvel at all she is baking now, a couple of years down the road from her amazing performance in a certain tent.

Every year I ask Phil to choose a cake for his Birthday, which falls right after Christmas. Last month, he saw Kim Joy’s book over the table and announced that his cake would have to be from her book. It took him just a few minutes to come back with “This one. Woodland Cake.”  Sure. A three-layer cake with ganache frosting, home-made praline’, ginger cookies, mushroom-shaped meringues,  and a gigantic sheet of white chocolate, well-tempered. In other words, a cake that says I really, really love you.

Kim Joy offers several suggestions for the chocolate cake, in the book she opted for a vegan version. I’ve been meaning to try Ina Garten’s intense chocolate cake for a while, so I decided to go with it.  I used the ginger cookies from Kim Joy’s book and also her Royal icing, but will share only the other components of the cake.

WOODLAND CAKE
(published with permission from Kim Joy)

for the cake:
used the recipe from Ina Garten, available here
(exact amounts as shown, baked in 3 cake pans, 6 inch diameter)

for chocolate bark:
100g brown candy melts
500g white chocolate, tempered

for coconut-chocolate ganache:
400g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
300 mL coconut milk
100 to 250g powdered sugar

for praline’:
130g super fine sugar
35mL water
1 tsp liquid cornstarch (optional)
75g hazelnuts peeled and toasted

for mushroom meringue:
140g superfine sugar
80g egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar

for cookies (optional):
use any favorite recipe for gingerbread cookies

Bake the cake according to the recipe in the link, using 3 round pans with 6-inch in diameter. Cool completely. It can be prepared a couple of days in advance, reserve in the fridge.

Make the chocolate bark. Lay out a rectangular piece of parchment paper measuring roughly 9 1/2 x 27 1/2 inches. Melt the brown candy melts gently in the microwave. Use a paintbrush to paint dots and stripes to mimi the pattern of a birch tree. Let it cool to harden.

Temper the white chocolate and pour on top of the paper with the design already painted and set. Spread gently with an offset spatula to get a smooth, thin coating. Once the chocolate sets, break into pieces of bark (easier way to do it is by hand, using a knife tends to shatter the pieces). Reserve. Can be prepared the day before.

Make the mushroom meringues. Heat the oven to 400F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the sugar over it. Bake for about 8 minutes until warm but not caramelized.  Leave the door open for the sugar to cool down to about 212F.

Add the egg whites to a KitchenAid type mixer and whisk at high speed until you get soft peaks. Add the cream of tartar then the baked sugar very slowly, about 1 Tablespoon at a time, allowing it to dissolve before adding more.  Transfer to a piping bag and pipe small blobs to be the head of the mushrooms and small stalks piping with the bag straight up, to form the stalks.

Bake at 200F for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on how dry you like them to be. Switch the oven off and leave the meringues inside for a couple of hours to get the meringues fully dry. To form the mushrooms, make a small hole in the bottom of the “caps”, and use some melted chocolate or candy melts to glue the stalk into it. Shower the mushrooms with cocoa powder if you like.

Make the praline paste. Add the sugar, water and cornstarch to a pan. Stir to combine, then stop stirring, bring to a boil. Meanwhile spread the hazelnuts over a Silpat or parchment paper. When the sugar mixture turns amber in color, pour quickly over the hazelnuts, and allow it to fully set. Break into pieces and place in a food processor, blitzing it into a paste. Reserve.

Make the coconut ganache. Place the chocolate in a large Pyrex type bowl. Heat the coconut milk until it starts to bubble. Pour over the chocolate and let it sit undisturbed for 2 minutes. Stir until fully smooth. Add the sugar and whisk with a handheld mixer until just combined. Transfer 2/3 of the ganache to a bowl and chill for 15 minutes.  This portion will be used to coat the cake.

Add the praline paste to the remaining 1/3 of the ganache.  This will be used to fill the cake layers.

Optional step: Bake gingerbread cookies in the shape of your choice to decorate the cake, icing them if you like.

ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Place one cake layer over a cardboard round and add ganache/praline mixture on top. Place second layer of cake, repeat the spreading of ganache, and the final cake layer on top. Coat the sides and top with the pure ganache.  Set the cake in the fridge for an hour or so. Transfer it to the serving platter.

Adjust the size of the chocolate bark so that pieces will overlap the cake all around and have more or less similar heights. Remember that nature is never fully perfect, so go with the flow.  Melt some candy melts if needed, for the bark to stick better to the cake.

Add the cookies and meringue on top of the cake, spread some coconut flakes around the bottom, a few more meringues. Say I love you, and serve!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If there is anything more fun to bake than this cake, I don’t know what it could be. As Kim Joy says in the book, you don’t have to make every single component in her cakes, but if you decide to do, just go slowly, make them ahead of time. The meringues I made 5 days earlier and froze. The cookies last days at room temperature, the bark also can be made 3, 4 days ahead. All of a sudden it becomes quite doable. Bake the cakes, make the praline and ganache, and you are pretty much done.  If tempering chocolate gets you into severe hyperventilation, you can use candy melts. It won’t taste as good, but the visual effect will be similar and everyone will be impressed.

And now, allow me to share a little review of Baking with Kim Joy

BAKE, BE ADVENTUROUS, AND ABOVE ALL, BE HAPPY!
(Kim Joy)

If you love color and happy feelings, this book is for you. It is pure Kim in each page, every little detail of the book, from cute drawings to uplifting messages, it is impossible not to browse without a smile. Just as I wrote this phrase, I opened the book and saw the very first page:

Cute and Creative Bakes to Make you Smile.  

See? What did I just tell you?

The book is divided in 5 chapters: Cakes and Frosting, Cookies and Icing, Breads, Square Cakes and Little Bakes. I will go chapter by chapter sharing my thoughts

CAKES AND FROSTING. She opens the chapter (actually she opens the book) with a cake that took my breath away, not only because it is gorgeous, but the flavors! Pistachio and Cardamom Cake with Mango-Saffron Jam. The cake is naked, she offers different versions of buttercream to lightly coat it, and the top is sprinkled with ground pistachios in a very simple but artistic way. I adore it. I will make the mango jam very soon. Next comes the Vegan Chocolate Cake with Praline, which would be her cake of choice for the Woodland Cake I shared today.  The whole idea behind her book is to use it as a starting point. For instance her Spiced Carrot & Walnut Cake shows up as a regular cake, but then she dresses it up for Halloween adding meringue ghosts and poached pears, for stunning decoration. Stunning and fun at the same time.  You can also find a Rainbow Cake (how could she not include one?) but coupled with the perfect type of icing, and if you want to go the extra mile, make it a cake that holds something unexpected inside as you slice it open. Yes, get her book!  Easter Cake, Cat Paradise, Space Turtle (!!!!), Whale Underwater Cake, one more interesting than the other, each offering a unique type of decorating, sometimes with gingerbread little sculptures, sugar paste, isomalt, dripping ganache.  The chapter ends with several types of frostings and decorating techniques.

COOKIES AND ICINGS. She offers four basic cookie recipes, advising on when to use each. Semolina Shortbread, Ginger Cookies (that I used in the cake, her version has the right amount of cloves for our taste), Basic Vegan Shortbread, and Vegan Ginger Cookies. Then she moves to  cookie decorating tips and ideas, starting with her small batch of Royal Icing. I love that. In fact, I’ve been using her small scale version quite often, because I hate to have a huge amount of Royal Icing hanging around. I now know pretty much how much I need, and might make her recipe or maybe double it, but never need more than that.

BREADS. The book opens with a recipe using tangzhong, which is a technique I found not too long ago and love to use. She uses it to make adorable cat buns, of course, and immediately follows with a version that bakes a Honey Wreath of little cats around a wheel of camembert cheese. It is just the cutest bread you’ll ever see. A No-Knead overnight Caraway Bread also calls my name. She shares a recipe for a Japanese classic bread called “Melonpan” which again, is going to bring a huge smile to your face once you see it. The type of baking that if you have kids around, you definitely must embrace.

SQUARE CAKES. I want to bake every single cake of this chapter. It is color, and art, and fun all around. I don’t have the artistic skill to do some of them, but maybe with Phil’s help I could give the Lavender and Orange Cake a try. It looks like a Monet’s painting.

LITTLE BAKES. Macarons. The chapter starts with macaron tips and ideas. You can imagine my happy dance, right? Honestly, some shapes seem very challenging, but it is nice to see how creative one can be with macaron piping. She moves to other types of cookies, like Cardamon, Almond and Honey Bee Cookies that use her basic Semolina Shortbread flavored with a touch of cardamon. The decoration in the cookies is just amazing, they end up like cute little bees, each with a unique “expression.” After that comes choux buns, tartlets and madeleines, that she transforms into little works of art. Just mind blowing.  This final chapter alone is worth the whole book, in my opinion.

I cannot say that her book is for beginners, maybe it would be a bit too challenging for someone who has never baked a cake or a batch of cookies. But if you are passionate about baking, the book is a must-have, no matter your skill level.

Kim Joy, thank you so much for giving me permission to share this recipe, and for being a constant source of inspiration for those who love to bake.

ONE YEAR AGO: Lemon-Almond Cake with Cranberry Glaze

TWO YEARS AGO: The Iron (Uptake) Chef Challenge

THREE YEARS AGO: Thank you!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Salmon Rillettes, a Classy Appetizer

FIVE YEARS AGO: Linzer Cookies

SIX YEARS AGO: Baked Ricotta, Take Two

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Uncanned

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Pork Ragu

NINE YEARS AGO: Friendly Kuri Squash

TEN YEARS AGO: Celery and Apple Salad

LEMONY BARLEY WITH SHRIMP AND SPINACH

This recipe used to be a regular rotation in our kitchen then I totally forgot all about it. I was sure it was in the blog already, so I wanted to make it the other day and was shocked because… it has never been shared here. Shame. Shame. Shame. I will not walk through the streets of Manhattan in GoT fashion. Instead, I will quickly share it today, and hope to be forgiven.

LEMONY BARLEY WITH SHRIMP AND SPINACH
(inspired by a recipe from Fine Cooking)

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined (save peels for stock)
1/2 large onion, skin on
1 lemon, cut in slices
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 cup + 1/3 cup quick-cooking barley
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup black olives, pitted, cut in pieces
zest of 1 lemon

Make a shrimp stock simmering the shells with the half onion and lemon slices. Season it lightly with salt and pepper. Reserve.  You will use about 2 cups of the stock to cook the barley.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the shrimp seasoned with a little salt until almost fully cooked. Remove and reserve, covered with foil. Add a little more oil if needed, and saute in the same pan the onion and celery  until fragrant, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper.

 Add the barley and stir until coated with the oil and veggie pieces. Add the lemon juice and cook, stirring, for 15 seconds. Pour in 2 cups of shrimp stock, 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until the barley is tender, 12 minutes.

Uncover the pan, add in the spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in the reserved shrimp, black olives, and lemon zest.  Adjust seasoning if needed and serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This is truly delicious, and I am kicking myself for taking so long to bring this back to our table. It is quick to prepare, and if you like to make it even easier, use chicken stock, store-bought, which is actually part of the original recipe from Fine Cooking. I just feel that if you have the peels available, shrimp stock is ready so quickly, why not up the flavor of the dish with it?  Your kitchen, your decision.
.

 

PUFF BREAD BALLS, TWO SALADS AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW

Do people need cookbooks these days? Just think about it. You can find pretty much any recipe you want with a click of your mouse. Endless content online by food bloggers and food sites, free for you to grab and enjoy. Some virtual spots might annoy you a bit with pop-ups and advertisement, but it is a small price to pay to get that recipe to put your bottle of pomegranate molasses or the jar of rose harrissa to good use. I have a different view, though. I buy cookbooks because I want to support the authors and honor their hard work. For that reason, I never share a recipe from a cookbook unless I get permission to do so. Last month I bought  “DOUGH: Simple Contemporary Bread”, from Richard Bertinet, and immediately fell in love with it. His approach to making bread is straigthforward and very creative. It takes a lot for a cookbook to impress me enough to write a review about it. However, I could not wait to share my views on Bertinet’s and in fact I loved it so much I had to also bring his book “CRUMB: Bake Brilliant Bread” into  my life.  If you love bread baking and want to have recipes that make you go “why I never thought of this?” – this one is for you!

(to see a video of his slap and fold technique, click here)

PUFF BREAD BALLS
(published with permission from Mr. Richard Bertinet)
from his cookbook DOUGH: Simple, Contemporary Bread)

10g yeast (fresh if possible) (I used 6 g dry instant yeast from King Arthur Flour)
500g bread flour
10g Salt
350g water

Heat oven to 475F.

If using fresh yeast, rub it into the flour using your fingertips as if making a crumble. Add the salt and water. Hold the bowl with one hand and mix the ingredients around with the other for 2–3 minutes until the dough starts to form. Knead the dough according to his method (see video link above) or use a KitchenAid type mixer for 2 minutes, then turn up to the next slowest speed and mix for a further 6-7 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

Remove the dough from the bowl, transfer to a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Rest the dough  for about 20 minutes (the puff balls don’t need extensive proofing time).

Divide it into equal pieces (about 40g each).  Round each piece of dough into a small ball, cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for a further 5 minutes. Make sure there are no tiny pieces of dried dough on your work surface or rolling pin, as any particles that get into the dough will stop it from puffing up. Dust your work surface with some sifted flour (the idea is to avoid large particles at all cost).  

Roll out each piece of dough into a disc, turning it over a few times, and flouring well as you go. Continue rolling until the dough is very thin (1–2mm). You will need to bake the puff balls one or two at a time, depending on the size of your oven. I rolled them over parchment paper and simply carried the paper into the oven. It gets a bit yellow at the end of the baking time, but it does not burn. I find that if I try to place the thin dough over a wooden peel, it gets totally messed up in shape. If you are better at it, try it that way, which is the way Bertinet recommends. Bake for about 3–4 minutes. The puff balls should inflate very quickly and are ready when they are completely puffed up, golden brown and sound hollow if you tap them.

If you like to make pillows, use a square cutter, they puff just like the round balls, and are very cute.

Carefully remove each one from the oven and cool on a wire rack. The puff balls are at their best about 3–4 hours after baking, but can be kept for a couple of days in an air-tight container.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

These were so much fun to bake! I managed to stick three at a time in our oven, but they bake so fast, it’s not big deal if you need to bake one or two only. The balls would be fun to serve at a cocktail party, especially if you make the little pillows, and let your guests break them in half, or small pieces, using them as spoons to dig into hummus or other dips. I will definitely be making this often, as they are ready so quickly.

SALAD IN A BREAD BALL

Greens of your choice
Diced Tomatoes
Diced Cucumbers
simple salad dressing (olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper)

Brush a small circle of the base with water to soften the crust, then carefully cut out this softened disc with a sharp knife. Just before serving push a good quantity of salad gently into each puff ball. Let everyone break the tops with a spoon or fork, add dressing, and eat with the pieces of broken bread ball.

FATTOUSH-LIKE SALAD
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

a couple of bread balls shattered into pieces
olive oil
1/2 tsp sumac
baby lettuce leaves
1/2 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed
smoked paprika
tomato pieces
cucumber pieces
for vinaigrette:
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp sumac
1/8 tsp ground allspice

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet, add the pieces of bread and sautee for a few seconds. Season with the sumac and reserve over paper towels to remove excess oil.

Prepare the garbanzo beans: coat them very lightly with olive oil, add smoked paprka, a touch of salt and microwave for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and allow it to cool  before adding to the salad.

Make the vinaigrette by emulsifying all ingredients together. Assemble the salad in a large bowl, add the vinaigrette and pieces of seasoned bread.  Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This salad was a winner, all the way. Normally made with pita, I think the broken bread balls worked even better, they developed a very nice flavor, and got super crunchy. The garbanzo beans straight from the can, benefit from a quick visit to the microwave, a trick I saw somewhere online and stayed in my memory. You can use other spices, the idea is to just break that boring canned feel. It works!  You could saute them briefly in a pan but the microwave makes it even easier.

And now, without further delay, my thoughts on a great cookbook. Thank you, Mr. Bertinet for so quickly answering my request to publish this recipe. You made the life of this food blogger a lot easier!

 

 

REVIEW OF RICHARD BERTINET’S DOUGH: Simple Contemporary Bread

The book is based around the kneading technique favored by  Bertinet, which is quite more energetic than folding, because you will be slapping the dough around with considerable enthusiasm, but he does so in a way that incorporates air into the dough much more efficiently. It is almost like a dance, I cannot help but think of samba as I go through those moves. You get into the rhythm, and  soon the dough starts developing structure right under your fingers. Fascinating and fun.

He organizes the book in 5 chapters according to the type of dough: White,  Olive, Brown, Rye, and Sweet Dough. Every bread in each chapter uses a single recipe for dough that he takes into unique directions, some will be familiar to you, others will intrigue and make you dream.  He uses fresh yeast, I have a hard time finding it where I live, so I use about 60% of the amount of instant dry yeast. I will list the recipes that called my attention in each of the chapters.

WHITE DOUGH. From this group I got the recipe for the cute bread puffs I shared today. But I loved the idea of “Bread Shots”, Sesame and Aniseed Breadsticks, Spicy Moroccan Rolls (OMG),  and also his Saffron Rolls.

OLIVE DOUGH. A departure from the first chapter, in this variation he adds a small amount of olive oil to the dough, which gives it more elasticity and softness.  Maybe you think that Tomato, Garlic and Basil Bread is too “common?” Wait until you see how he shapes it, and you will definitely re-consider.  How about making a soup bowl with your bread? He explains how, I cannot wait to try that soon, while soup weather is with us. I want to make a smoky tomato soup and serve it inside a cute bread bowl. And no, it’s not a round loaf with the crumb removed. This chapter has one cute idea after another, I was also taken by his Parmesan, Parma Ham, and Pine Nut Slices, they are shaped almost as cinnamon rolls. So so clever.

BROWN DOUGH. Honey and Lavender Loaf…. Cardamom and Prune Bread… Do I have your attention yet?  Those are two of the loaves that I definitely want to try, using what he calls brown dough as a starting point. As you may have guessed, it is a straightforward dough with a high proportion of whole-wheat flour in it. Once again his creativity shines in cute ways to shape bread, like his Poppy Seed Stars. Just lovely and you can definitely use that shaping in any bread dough you’d like.

RYE DOUGH. I really like his approach to rye. It is a tricky flour to work with, and the higher the proportion of rye in a dough, the worst it gets. Gummy, heavy, unpleasant to work with and not always ending on a happy note after baking. He uses a low proportion of rye so that you profit from its taste but it still handles as a regular dough during kneading and shaping. His Walnut Bread and Olive Bread are two that called my name pretty loud. They look hearty, rustic, and are both quite beautiful. Aniseed and Guinness Bread seems very intriguing and he also shares a recipe for Dark Rye Bread that flips the formula around, it is mostly rye with a touch of white flour. I should really give it a try, particularly with his kneading method. Could be fun…

SWEET DOUGH. I thought about showcasing one of the recipes in this chapter but the puff bread was too cute not to share. The thing with his sweet dough is that it works both for sweet and savory concoctions, because it is not overly sweet. I love that. I am fascinated by all recipes in this chapter, so I will give you just the top four: Orange and Mint Loaf, Chocolate Buns (they look amazing!), Apricot and Almond Tart (yes, he uses his sweet dough to line a tart!), Pain Viennois.

Every recipe in the book is also adapted for a KitchenAid type mixer, so don’t worry if you prefer not to go the Samba-Knead route. There are no sourdough recipes in the book, so all you need is some commercial yeast and a little time. He shares a nice method to increase flavor, in which part of the dough is stored in the fridge and “refreshed” pretty much like a sourdough starter would.  Bakeries use that trick very often and it’s a simple way to pump flavor in the home kitchen.

If you love to bake bread, or if you would like to start but feel a bit intimidated, get his books (links to amazon in the beginning of the post; I make no profit from your acquisitions).

ONE YEAR AGO: Pistachio-Caramel and Apple Mousse Cakes

TWO YEARS AGO: La Couronne Bordelaise

THREE YEAR AGO: A Special Birthday Dinner

FOUR YEARS AGO: Duck Confit for a Special Occasion

FIVE YEARS AGO: Tuscan Grilled Chicken and Sausage Skewers

SIX YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Pork Tenderloin & Apples

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

NINE YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

TEN YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

 

 

WANNA BE A TENT-BAKER?


For the past year or so I’ve been part of a closed Facebook group for fans of The Great British Bake Off. It is a very nice online community (almost 20 thousand participants) that at the present time is not accepting new members. Recently Christine, the moderator, asked me to make a video with advice for people interested in submitting an application.  I decided to share it here also, one never knows if some of my readers have been flirting with the idea of baking in the tent. Remember, it all starts with a little thought in the back of your mind… what if? why not?

For the application online, click here

In case you missed my write-ups about all episodes of Season 5…  here they are

Episode 1…

Episode 2…

Episode 3…

Episode 4…

Episode 5… 

Episode 6…

Semi-Final…

Final

PEARLED FARRO WITH ASPARAGUS COINS

A few years ago I posted a pasta recipe using tiny little asparagus coins as a component of the sauce. The other day I decided to roast them and ended up with a side dish that won me over. Added bonus: it is super fast to prepare. Pearled farro cooks a lot faster than the regular grain, and I did not detect any loss in flavor or texture. If you find it in your grocery store, stock on a few bags.

PEARLED FARRO WITH ROASTED ASPARAGUS COINS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

3/4 cup pearled farro
asparagus stalks, cut in very small rounds
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Herbes de Provence
squirt of lemon juice

Heat oven to 420F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the farro, cook for 15 to 20 minutes. If you like it with a bit more bite, check at 15 minutes and if it’s done to your liking, drain and reserve.

Meanwhile coat the asparagus coins with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence, amounts are flexible, just go with your intuition. For a regular size asparagus bundle I used 1/4 tsp Herbes de Provence.

Place the asparagus in a single layer in a baking dish covered with aluminum foil to facilitate clean-up. Roast for about 15 minutes moving it around the baking sheet.  When they are done, squirt some lemon juice, adjust seasoning and mix with the warm farro.  Serve right away. Leftovers are great also. Even cold as a salad.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Many variations are possible here. If you don’t want to roast the asparagus coins, simply sautee them quickly in olive oil plus all the spices. Because the coins are so tiny, they cook very fast, so doing the top of the stove method, they can be ready in 5 minutes for sure. The roasted version has slightly more intense flavor. The second picture shows a similar approach (top of the stove), but using zucchini. Also very delicious.

I use farro a lot, but was a bit unsure about trying the pearled version, thinking it would not be nearly as good. I was wrong. It is a way to make farro a suitable option for a fast side dish after a busy day in the lab.

I hope you’ll give this simple recipe a try.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pistachio Caramel and Apple Mousse Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Someone turns 70 today!

THREE YEARS AGO: Carioca Cake, the Final Chapter

FOUR YEARS AGO: Duck Confit for a Special Occasion

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ken Forkish’s Warm Spot Sourdough 

SIX YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, Rainbows, and a wonderful surprise!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

NINE YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

TEN YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

 

TROPICAL SUNSHINE ENTREMET CAKE

I know, winter is still with us, and it will be for a while. But I cannot resist a shout to what’s to come in a few weeks. This entremet cake celebrates summer in a tropical paradise, any paradise of your choice. Coconut and passion fruit, for a creamy and refreshing mousse cake.

TROPICAL SUNSHINE ENTREMET CAKE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from several sources)

Silikomart mold:  Lady Queen

Two days before – make passion fruit insert and freeze.

One day before – make cake layer and coconut  mousse. Assemble cake and freeze. 

Showtime Day – make mirror glaze, glaze cake and defrost before serving

For coconut dacquoise layer
140g egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar
170g  sugar
80g almond flour
60g desiccated coconut (I used coconut powder, a product from Sri Lanka)
28g  all purpose flour, sifted
20g butter, melted and cooled

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, place the egg whites, cream of tartar and whisk until foamy and a trail starts to form as the beater goes through the egg whites  Gradually add in the sugar until firm peaks form. Gently fold the almond meal, desiccated coconut and flour into the egg whites in 3-4 additions. Fold some of the mixture into the melted butter before adding back into the rest of the mixture and folding until combined.

Spread into a half Flexipat or a lined baking tray and bake at 400 F°C for about 9 min.  Cool,  freeze for 10 min and cut in the appropriate shape to fit the bottom of the mold. You will have cake leftover.

For passion fruit cremeux:
160g passion fruit juice/pulp
4g gelatin + 20ml cold water
100g sugar
4 egg yolks
20g cornstarch
120g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bloom the gelatin in cold water.

Bring the passion fruit juice to the boiling point in a saucepan. In the meantime, mix the egg yolks with sugar until pale. Add the cornstarch and mix well. Pour the hot passion fruit puree over the egg yolk mixture then return back on heat and cook on low just until thickened and it reaches 185 F.

Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin. Allow to cool down to 105F then add the butter and mix well. Pour the cremeux into the smaller mold of the kit Lady Queen.

For coconut mousse:
1 can coconut milk – approx 400ml
10g gelatin + 50ml cold water
2 egg whites
120g granulated sugar
60ml water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150ml heavy cream, whipped to consistency of melted ice cream

Bloom the gelatin in cold water.

Heat up the coconut milk just until warm then remove from heat and stir in the gelatin and vanilla. Let it cool while you make an Italian meringue. Boil the sugar and water in a saucepan until it reaches 240 F.

While the sugar syrup cooks, whip the whites until fluffy. Pour the hot syrup over the whipped whites and continue mixing for a few more minutes until glossy and stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the coconut milk mixture then add the meringue.

ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
Place coconut mousse in the large Lady Queen mold filling halfway. Carefully drop the frozen insert. Fill with mousse almost to the top, cover with the cake.

Freeze the whole thing overnight. Un-mold and glaze on the day you want to enjoy the cake.

For mirror glaze:
3 sheets Platinum grade sheet gelatin
120ml water
150 g liquid glucose
150 g granulated or caster sugar
1 tsp agar-agar
100 g condensed milk
150 g white chocolate, chopped fairly small
½ tsp titanium oxide (optional, but advisable)
yellow and orange gel food coloring

Put the water, sugar, liquid glucose and agar-agar in a small pan and bring to simmering point, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let it stand for about 5 minutes. This is the base syrup for the glaze.  Meanwhile, soak the gelatin in some cold water for about 5 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and stir into the hot water, sugar and liquid glucose mixture to dissolve. Stir in the condensed milk and the titanium oxide.

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour this hot mixture slowly over the chocolate, stirring gently to melt it, avoid making bubbles. A stick immersion blender works great, but you must keep the blades fully submerged at all times. If bubbles are present, pass the mixture through a fine sieve. When the glaze is at around 105 F, separate a small amount to dye yellow and a small amount to dye orange. Add them on top of the white glaze, do not mix too much, just a delicate swirl with a chopstick.

The ideal temperature to glaze is 92 to 94 F. Glaze the frozen cake. Defrost 2 hours in fridge before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I used a Silikomart mold kit called “Lady Queen“, but you can improvise and make it in a circular mold with the insert made in a smaller ring. Or make individual semi-sphere cakes. The amounts I am giving you will leave you with some leftover coconut mousse, which freezes well in small amounts if you’d like to have a simple dessert later. The passionfruit insert is just right for the kit.

I really liked the way this cake turned out. Full disclosure: the chocolate decorations were added to hide some capital sins. I made a few wrong assumptions about the amount of glaze needed. The cake is only 7 inches in diameter, smaller than most cakes I am used to mirror-glazing, so I did a single batch of glaze. It is ok if you use a single color, but to make a white, yellow and orange with enough to cover all sides, it would be better to have about 25% more. However, I do believe you can get by with the exact amount I include in the recipe, IF you pay attention to the glaze as it drips down the sides, to notice right away if there are gaps. I was way too optimistic and careless. When I realized the gaps, it was time for a big adrenaline rush, followed by quickly scraping glaze from the baking sheet, and trying to fix as many boo-boos as possible. Good thing I had some tempered chocolate decorations in the freezer, so I put them to use. I am also quite grateful for the absence of cameras during baking disasters at home. Feels amazing to be able to deal with them without having to channel my inner Lucille Ball.

The dacquoise had a very nice coconut flavor and great texture. I think the mousse was a perfect match for the passionfruit cream, both in color and flavor. The way the mold is designed makes it for a pretty large insert, so it ended up a bit heavy and had a tendency to sink to the bottom. I believe they could have made the insert a tad smaller, but who am I to criticize Silikomart? Pouring less volume in the insert could be a solution, but it will have a higher chance to break as you un-mold it.  Overall, those are minor details and I am ok with the way it all worked.

This Tropical Sunshine Entremet Cake was the first dessert in the Mondays with Sweetness 2020 series. I hope our colleagues enjoyed it.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Freekeh with Zucchini and Almonds

TWO YEARS AGO: Salmon a la Wellington, re-visited

THREE YEARS AGO: The Unbearable Unfairness of Cake Baking

FOUR YEARS AGO: Hermit Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Cremini Mushroom Meatloaf

SIX YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi & Tamimi’s Roast Chicken with Clementines

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Eight-Ball Zucchini: The Missing Files

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

NINE YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

TEN YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese: an Italian Classic

EPISODE 8: GRAND FINALE OF GABS AND THE ALTERNATE REALITY

ONE LAST TIME….

SPOILER INSIDE!
If you have not watched the show,
save this post to read later

So many conflicting emotions as I sit down to write this post. Nothing can truly prepare you for what it’s like to be on the show, and now that it is over, the many alternate scenarios of what “could have been” seem to haunt me with full force. Would I do it all over again? Yes, no doubt. But there is a lot of sadness and regret in the  background. I am speaking exclusively for myself, but I imagine that the feeling hits some of my baking buddies also. The Path of the Tent is not smooth for anyone, winner included. In every single season you can go back and realize that the winner was at risk of elimination before, sometimes more than once. So the what-iff’s hit them too, probably, although obviously in a much more subtle (and less hurtful) way.

But the title of this post has a different reason. It’s not some type of a self-centered description of what could have been better for me or others eliminated early.  I want to talk about bakers who enter the group in a very strange category, they are “alternates.”  In every season the producers need to make sure 10 bakers will enter the tent. Stuff can go wrong, though. People can get sick, people can get into some panic attack and realize they just cannot deal with it. So they need to have backup contestants ready to step in (literally). Their identities must remain a secret. They go through the exact same preparation we all went through. They fly to London, they go to the tent on filming day one. Ready to join if needed. Then, once filming starts, and all the ten bakers are settled in, they fly back to the US. In complete anonymity. Can you imagine the feeling? The struggles, the anxiety? To just go back, unable to tell anyone about it, unable to get anything “publicly” out of the experience.  I want to say to the two alternates I had the chance to meet, you are amazing to me in every single aspect. You were pure joy to interact with and any of you two would be pretty hard to beat in the tent. In awe, I wish you the best of luck in whatever adventure life brings you.

Without further ado, I share with my readers what I had planned for the finale.

Signature Bake
Choux Buns

We were supposed to make two versions, one with a craquelin topping and another without, but with a glaze of our choice. For my craquelin version I chose a filling of Tonka bean creme patissier, very aromatic and flavorful.  For the plain version, lemon filling and a blueberry glaze. If you watched the show, you know that Dana forgot to add the craquelin before sticking her batch in the oven. Well, guess what? I did the exact same thing during practice. I was so concerned with rolling the craquelin topping with the right thickness, cutting the right diameter needed to cover the piped little blobs. But for optimal results, the little topping needs to be frozen. And once I put the little rounds in the freezer, they were “out of sight, out of mind.” Contrary to Dana, when I realized my mistake there were some choice words flying around the Bewitching Kitchen… Words that, in the tent would prompt an army of cameramen to gather around “Sally, do you mind repeating that for the cameras? But please, skip that initial expletive, ok? Or use Portuguese, how about that?”  So I understand exactly the shiver Dana felt, and how she was left with a very tricky decision. Start all over? Or quickly add the craquelin component? Tough choice. I would have done what she did, hurt a little the bake but not compromise completely the cruel timing of the game. They do not give you enough time for do-overs.  Which brings me back to Bianca and how fiercely she fought on cake day. Remember?

Technical Challenge
FRAISIER CAKE

Such a classic cake, I’ve made it once but not with the tricky topping of strawberry jelly, it seemed like a very stressful maneuver to do right at the end, not only they had to center the jelly-containing pan perfectly on top of the cake, but make sure to heat it uniformly and hope that it would fall without breaking. Probably if you do that a couple of times in your life you get the hang of it, but in the tent, with the cameramen at the ready to zoom in? Not that easy, my friends. Not that easy. Add some tempering of white chocolate to that equation and they had a real challenging task on their hands. Remember, we were not baking during winter. It was hot in that tent. Dana got first place in the technical, and Marissa got third.

Showstopper Final
Individual-Sized Dessert Display
(three desserts, 12 samples each)

The brief said not to repeat any bake previously made during the competition, and that desserts could not involve cupcakes or choux buns. All options must contain a baked element and be sweet. Easy, right? Oh, sure, in 4 hours and 30 minutes, including cooling time. Yeah, piece of cake. Literally.

I tell you one thing, I had a very hard time with this challenge, and my last dessert (the mini pavlovas) materialized around 5pm of the very deadline day. We had until midnight to send all recipes in the proper format. Did I ever mention to you that composing the recipes the way they need to be takes quite a bit of time? I was truly fit to be tied when I hit “send email.”  And not at all confident in my choices. Which were…

Reveillon Mousse Cakes, decorated sponge layer surrounding a white-chocolate coconut mousse and strawberries, plus a strawberry jelly on top (made with agar-agar).


Cappuccino Panna Cotta over a brown sugar cookie base, topped with chocolate-orange ganache. Once again, I resorted to agar-agar, an ingredient that is not very common, but when used in the right proportion, confers perfect texture and sets a lot quicker and more reproducibly than gelatin.  I intend to share posts on the blog about it in the near future. For the tent version I would use scalloped edged cookie cutters (I had them on order at amazon).

Last, but not least…

Candied Banana Mini-Pavlovas, inspired by the caramelized banana my Mom used to make when I was young.  I had originally played with the idea of making “Quindim”, a very traditional and unusual Brazilian recipe with Portuguese origins, but stumbled on several pretty bad recipes that failed to deliver what they promised. That set me back a couple of days and really raised the stress level sky-high.  There were tears, there was despair, and there was a desire to quit at the very end of the preparation stage. Then I thought about mini-pavlovas, and decided to give that option one last go before admitting defeat.

After watching the show, I concluded my mini-cakes were a bit too big and did not have enough textural contrast. Maybe it is a good thing I did not have to serve them to Paul and Sherry after all…  I was reasonably happy with the other two desserts, although baking the meringue base for Pavlovas can be tent-tricky.

If I had any input on the organization of the show, I would allow 1 full week to prepare for the semi-final and 1 full week to prepare for the final. When you consider we had to come up with 8 different recipes (2 kinds of canapes, 1 Opera Cake, 2 choux buns, 3 individual sized desserts) in 7 days, with sophistication and “wow-factor” expected this late in the competition, I believe it becomes almost unrealistic. What it amounts to is, your first idea must be the one you pursue to the end, because no investment of baking time can go to waste.

There we were watching together… the Premier of The Great British Bake Off that started on our last week in the UK. Tanya was out in a theatre play with her daughter, so unfortunately she is not in the picture. Marissa took the picture, which explains her absence. It was  such a cool evening! We were screaming at the TV:  “Nooooo! don’t DO THAT, are you crazy???? It’s not going to work!!!! Wanna be eliminated????”  It was fun and emotional at the same time. We knew that a few months down the line people would be watching us and maybe screaming the same way…. “SALLY, this gingerbread house is not looking good…. OMG Sally, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Wanna be eliminated?”

As you know, there is no elimination in the final, but only one baker gets “the plate.”  That was Brother Andrew. Congratulations on making it to the final and being chosen as The Best Amateur Baking in the US, year 2019″. You had quite a ride, so enjoy the outcome!

Two of my dear baking buddies had the thrill of stepping in that tent for the Final together with Andrew, and they proved they had every right to be there.

Marissa… OMG she is just too funny and cool… I cannot help but think she would be PERFECT as part of the cast of a show like Saturday Night Live. Maybe you caught a tiny bit of her artistic flair when she impersonated Paul Hollywood during her bake. But she is just phenomenal imitating all kinds of accents and personalities. I never had kids, but I tell you, if I had, I wish they could be students in her acting class. She takes the funniest selfies and shares them with us in your texting group, I call them “The Many Faces of Marissa”, they are priceless. She is a fantastic baker, one who puts a ton of passion in her bakes. In the very early stages of the show, when we were hanging out in our “greenish room” (wink wink), she talked about how hard it is when you develop a recipe and feel very good about it, but then it gets harshly criticized. Why that happens? It is hard to tell, actually. The bake can go slightly wrong, or the ingredients might be a bit different, and let’s not forget, people have different tastes, and what you find amazing and delicious might not awe Paul and Sherry. Whatever the reason, the criticism hurts and you have to face it and deal with it, cameras right on your face. And try your best to put that behind you, so you can go on to the next task at hand. It is a psychological roller coaster, one that Marissa surfed with a lot of grace and wit.

She and her husband have been dealing with a benign brain tumor affecting Charlie, the cutest dachshund pup, something that came up as a seizure right when the first show aired. If you can help them with the expenses for the treatment, please do so with a click here.  It is a treatable condition with radiation therapy (that starts next week), and Charlie will have many more years of a good life together with them.

The other baker who stepped into the tent for the final was Dana. I share with you one of my favorite pictures of our time in the UK, taken in the hotel lobby.  What can I say? We clicked almost immediately. So many similarities between us… We are both not very tall (although obviously I beat her in the contest for The Vertically Challenged), we have three dogs, one of them is called Buck (!!!), we have two cars, one is a Tesla and the other a pickup truck. We love to exercise, we wake up at ungodly early hours, we do not drink, and we are in a slightly older age bracket than the other bakers (although I beat her by many years in that category too).  Of all the bakers in our group, I believed Dana had probably the best mindset to face the challenges. She is rock solid, and does not allow criticism or small setbacks to affect her. What you saw in the show, her focused approach to the bakes, was there from day one. She was doing in the tent what she loves to do and that was clear for all to see. In my mind, there was no doubt she would make it to the final, and quite likely be the winner. I cannot tell you how happy I am our paths crossed.

That is it, my friends. Eight episodes, eight blog posts. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and the first feeling I have, in that state in-between dream and reality, is sadness about how it all developed for me. Then it goes away, because I am so glad I had the chance to be part of it.

Dreams are for free. Maybe one day they will call some bakers to go back to the tent, give them a chance to bake their best one more time. Maybe they could mix British and American contestants… Maybe…. I tell you, I would go back in a heartbeat.. I need my handshake fix.

ONE YEAR AGO: Raspberry Ganache Macarons

TWO YEARS AGO: Pain au Chocolat

THREE YEARS AGO: Two Unusual Takes on Roasted Veggies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Kadoo Boranee: Butternut Squash Perfection

FIVE YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli Soup with Toasted Almonds

SIX YEARS AGO:
 Fennel and Cheddar Cheese Crackers

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A Festive Pomegranate Dessert

EIGHT YEARS AGO: My First Award!

NINE YEARS AGO: A Message from WordPress

TEN YEARS AGO: Turkish Chicken Kebabs